Monthly Archives November 2014

The Problem with Performance Reviews

I’ve always been troubled by performance reviews. I didn’t like them when I was working inside an organization. I don’t like them now that I consult with organizations. There, I’ve said it. I have two problems with performance reviews. One, they look backward. Given the pace and complexity of business today, looking backward isn’t very useful. It’s too late. If someone isn’t as engaged as we would like or performing at the level we believe them capable of why would we wait until a quarterly, semi-annual, or (God help us!) annual review meeting to talk to them about it? Second,

Enemies of the “Adjacent Possible”

In “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (2010),” Steven Johnson writes about “the adjacent possible.” I love that phrase. The possible is always in reach. “The phrase captures both the limits and the creative potential of change and innovation. The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” In business, I see a couple enemies of the adjacent possible that may hinder its being tapped and thereby impeding innovation and successful change. Both

9 Leadership Lessons from Dad

My father was born on this day in 1928. He’d have been 86 today had he not died at the too-young age of 50 when I was just 17. The man I have become and am becoming is the partly the result of a continuing conversation in which I compare and contrast my beliefs and actions with how my dad would see something and what he would do in different situations. Some things I’ve tried to emulate. Some things I’ve tried to do differently. Either way, he’s been a great teacher. In my work with leaders, I remember the lessons

2 Horrible Things Only Curiosity Can Prevent

Inquiry Before Advocacy. This is a simple and important rule that most leaders forget to follow. Highly effective leaders spend more time asking questions and less time telling someone what to do. It’s that simple. There are two powerful reasons why this simple rule is an axiom of business. Leading through advocacy results in two horrible situations taking hold in the team or organization. First, when we lead through advocacy, we are telling someone what we would do or what she should do. We become the ‘solution provider’ and as such, people become dependent upon us to always provide the

The Tracks We Leave

When I was a kid we had to take our shoes off in the basement, especially in winter. My mother didn’t want us tracking mud, snow or worse through her house. There is a Dakota proverb that says, “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” As leaders, what kinds of tracks are we leaving? Are we tracking mud through our teams and organizations? We all leave a legacy – in each and every moment. At the end of our lives. At the end of our careers. At the end of a meeting. At the end of an

Two Brothers—One Very Important Lesson

Yesterday was the anniversary of my father’s death 36 years ago. Today is the anniversary of my Uncle Billy’s death 20 years ago. I usually remember these two men on their birthdays rather than on these days, but when sitting to write today’s post, I could not help but think about these two brothers. They were both good fathers and husbands – and leaders. They were both very funny, though my uncle was funnier. They both felt a strong calling to be of service to the community. They were both involved in the church and our community. One played a

Kick the “Ready, Fire, Aim” Habit

We have a problem. In our organizations today, we react to the pace and complexity of our world with a “Ready, FIRE, Aim” mentality. We give lip service to becoming more innovative and “thinking outside of the box.” The reality is our “Ready, Fire, Aim” addiction is a box of our own making. We race along at an unsustainable pace, vomiting old ideas onto new challenges and crossing our fingers that it will all work out. “Ready, Fire, Aim” is killing our ability to be competitive and to answer our important questions with creative and bold solutions. “Ready, Fire, Aim”

3 Essentials of Change Leadership

The dominant topic for our clients in all verticals at the moment is change. This is the overriding business imperative they are all facing: The way we work is changing. How do we lead change rather than react to it? There are three essential components to leading change successfully. Create a compelling vision of the future. Where do you want to go? What is the case for going there? How will you measure success along the way and at the end? Align thought and action. Is there clarity about what will be done to realize the vision, who’s doing what,

Step Up to Your Summit

Many years ago, while still working at a job I knew was taking me nowhere, I was listening to “Sinatra, Live at The Sands.” I’m a huge fan of Frank Sinatra. I’ve been listening to his music for years. I love the songs. I love the voice. Most of all I love the attitude. While filming the original “Ocean’s 11” in Las Vegas, Frank and company (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford) would film during the day and then perform in the evening. Sometimes, the sign in front of the Sands Hotel simply said, “The Summit.” They

Change Leadership – There is No End Zone

There is no end zone. Doing change work there always comes a point early on, when structural changes have been announced and are almost complete, that someone will say, “Okay, the change is done. Now let’s get back to business.” After quietly chuckling to myself, I remind the person that this is the moment when the hard work begins in earnest. When it comes to leading change, there are yard markers and milestones; but there is no end zone. It is now almost cliché to say that change is constant. That doesn’t make it any less true true. We need